Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 317

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Activists to blast Rick Baker’s ‘backward thinking’ on LGBT rights

A day after Rick Baker announced he would run again for St. Petersburg mayor, a group of LGBT leaders is scheduled to blast his record on LGBT issues.

At a press conference set outside of City Hall, the activists are expected to note that during Baker’s tenure leading the city from 2001-2010, he banned the gay pride flag from flying at City Hall, refused to attend gay pride events around the city and “refused to offer any support for the LGBT community,” according to a press release sent out early Wednesday.

“St. Petersburg has moved forward the past 3 years. We can never go back to a time when discrimination was ok in the mayors’ office,” said Susan McGrath, organizer of the event and the chair of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee. “We will be discussing the stakes in this election, and the type of candidate our community cannot stand with in August. We can’t go back to a mayor who is uncomfortable with the LGBT community, or any other.”

Baker is well aware that his record on gay rights will be a topic during his campaign against incumbent Rick Kriseman. Near the conclusion of his 33-minute speech announcing his candidacy on Tuesday, Baker noted that the issue is sure to come up, but affirmed his belief that the LGBT community is “a vital and important part of our community,” and said he had LGBT staffers working for him when he was previously mayor.

“If you were to look at my administration, we had people from the LGBT community at every level of my government, through the cabinet level,” he said, adding that he “hated to talk about groups like that, but I have to, because I’m being called this.”

“I think St Pete is a very diverse, welcoming community and some of the policies in the past weren’t as welcoming,” Kriseman said in reaction to Baker’s entrance in the race on Tuesday. “We have tried to open our doors to everyone, make everyone feel comfortable here and recognize the importance that everyone plays as a resident of the city and in the community, and so some of the policies of the past belong to stay in the past.”

Say hello to Jay Fant, first major Attorney General candidate for 2018

Jay Fant has only been in the Legislature for three years, but based on his experience as a Jacksonville attorney, he believes he’s as qualified as anyone to become Florida’s next Attorney General.

On Tuesday, the Florida House Republican from Jacksonville visited Tampa as part of a four-day statewide blitz to begin his candidacy, starting the campaign tour less than 12 hours after the Florida Legislature commenced its 2017 Regular Session.

Speaking with FloridaPolitics.com at Sheltair Aviation, just north of the International Mall, the 49-year-old attorney and father of four emphasized he’s all about fighting for the little guy against what can be an obtrusive federal government, even if it now run by Donald Trump, who Fant supports.

“Even President Trump, who I’m a supporter of, can’t control everything his agencies do, or cover every rule that they come up with,” he said about the federal government. “And when they get it wrong, I’m going to fight it. I’m going to stand up for the state of Florida and say, ‘we don’t want that. We can do that ourselves.’”

Fant says he admires how Pam Bondi went after the Obama administration, joining other Republican Attorneys General in filing lawsuits on a number of issues over the past few years. He says if the situation presents itself, he’ll do the same thing. “The federal agencies get it wrong, and when they do get it wrong, I’m going to stand up them.”

“The federal agencies get it wrong, and when they do get it wrong, I’m going to stand up them.”

After graduating from the University of Florida law school, the Jacksonville native joined his family business at First Guaranty Bank, a bank he helped run until 2012.

Fant says what small banks like his went through during the Great Recession was a searing experience, as he saw big banks whose work led to the decline of the economy get bailed out by the feds to the exclusion of small mom and pop operations like First Guaranty.

“There was no way that companies like ours could survive and we didn’t, and many companies like ours didn’t, and that had an effect on me,” he says. “I saw how big government doesn’t care about Main Street, and I said I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else, and that was one of the main reasons I ran.”

On his brief excursion in Tampa, Fant visited Port Tampa Bay. He says Florida’s ports, which drive so much into the economy, are essentially our “borders,” and thus play a critical role when it comes to contending with illegal immigration and drug interdiction.

He said he was worried about the “cultural shift” that has taken place in recent years when it comes to law enforcement. Thanks to citizen derived home videos, there has been an explosion of police violence against black men that has led to civil unrest in some quarters of the country.

“It’s hard to believe that the media portrayal of some things that occur in the course of law enforcement doesn’t affect behavior, but it could also affect rules of evidence, too,” he warns about the prevalence of video recording of law enforcement’s interactions with the public. “The public does have a right to know, but we don’t want to incite enmity against law enforcement by very conveniently clipping pieces,” he says of such video coverage.

When asked if thinks that is what has happened, he says not “in any conspiratorial way,” but believes it’s “tempting” in a news cycle to selectively edit as such.

“It inflames passions,” he says of such video. “At the end of the day when criminal activity takes place, the criminal justice needs to happen in a fair way for those who (not only) have been accused of a crime, but also those who are executing the arrest.”

As for Tallahassee’s just-concluded Regular Session, Fant has enormous respect and reverence for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, but is dead set against his calls to zero out Enterprise Florida and give VISIT Florida a significant haircut in the state budget.

“I think we’ve made a critical mistake in not fully funding up VISIT Florida because that works,” Fant says.

Regarding substantial cuts to Enterprise Florida, the public-private business incentive entity, Fant says if Florida becomes the only state that doesn’t include some component to help a company move here, “we will not get these companies.”

Following his Tampa visit, Fant was off to Orlando for a roundtable discussion with small-business owners, followed by a press availability Tuesday night near his Jacksonville home.

Democratic hopeful Ray Pena says voters in CD 15 ‘not happy with Dennis Ross’

Although Ray Pena Jr. worked in law enforcement his entire life, he resents that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is “ripping families” apart deporting undocumented immigrants under the Donald Trump administration.

“We need a fair and just immigration reform policy right now because what we have is unfair and unjust,” says Pena, who became the first Democrat to file to run for Florida’s 15th Congressional District seat earlier this year. That’s the seat comfortably held for the past six years by GOP incumbent Dennis Ross.

The nearly 60-year-old Pena has spent much of his professional career in San Jose, California, where he worked as a police officer from 1981 to 2007.

In 2010, he received a FAA Certified Flight Instructor Certificate and created Guardian Aviation LLC in Winter Haven.

When asked about Ross’ support last week for the American Health Care Act, Pena says he’s not about to “vilify” the incumbent. That doesn’t mean that he won’t pass on what other voters in CD 15 have to say derisively of their congressman.

“I think Mr. Ross’s actions or inactions are what’s going to vilify him,” he told SPB in a phone conversation Monday. “The people I shake hands with every day, they are not happy with Mr. Ross, and they are not happy with his voting record, and in some respects, I have to concur with the public.”

Pena says that consulting with doctors and other health providers, he’s convinced that while the ACA needs to make “some adjustments,” he is emphatic that it did not need to be completely overhauled, which is what the GOP House passed last week.

Pena served in the Coast Guard from 1974-1978 which included a stint in Vietnam. He now considers himself “anti-war,”  nearly losing his son in Iraq in 2005. And he says that’s past time that the U.S. get out of Afghanistan.

“There’s no reason for us to be there,” Pena says. “We should be gone and let the Afghanistan government and administration handle their own internal problems and bring our kids home.”

Current and former Defense Department officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Reuters News Agency last month that the Trump administration is carrying out an inter-agency review, and while there has been no decision, discussions revolve around adding 3,000 to 5,000 troops.

Pena is derisive of Trump’s recent military attack on Syria, calling it a “dog and pony show.”

Although passionate in talking about the undocumented immigrants he met in all of his years working in San Jose and California’s Central Valley, Pena admits he’s not aware of the U.S. Senate’s 2013 legislation that would have paved the way for citizenship for the millions of undocumented people in the country.

The GOP-led House of Representatives ultimately declined to take up that bill.

While working as a police officer, Pena went back to school and earned two educational degrees: an Associates of Arts in Public Safety and Administration of Justice and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Management.

He’s working the grassroots early on, attempting to get on the ballot by gathering the 4,737 signatures needed to qualify by petition.

Pena is one of four Democrats who have filed to run so far for the CD 15 seat, which encompasses Polk County and parts of Lake and Hillsborough County. The others are Cameron Magnuson, Greg Williams and Greg Pilkington.

Democrat Greg Williams says Dennis Ross ‘sold his soul’ representing CD 15

Greg Williams

Greg Williams says he’s been “progressively more frustrated for the last decade” on the goings on in Washington D.C.

But after closely working with Democrat Jim Lange‘s unsuccessful congressional campaign against Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th District last year, Williams believes the community needs a “real voice and a real change” from what’s been going in the district.

CD 15 encompasses Northern Polk County, as well as parts of Hillsborough and Lake Counties.

Lange had lost to Ross in 2016 by 16 percentage points, spending only $40,000 in the effort.

Williams has “no illusions” about matching Ross’ ability to fundraise, but believes he can do better than Lange in raising campaign cash over the next year and a half.

“By starting earlier and organizing better at the beginning, we will certainly have a larger war chest than Jim did,” Williams says, adding: “I’m not going to sell my soul like our current representative has in order to get out-of-state and special interest money. That doesn’t help the people in this area.”

When asked what exactly he means by Ross “selling his soul,” the Charlotte, North Carolina native cites the Lakeland Republican’s vote last week for the American Health Care Act, as well as the financial contributions he’s received over the years from the insurance and security and banking industries.

“He sits on the Financial Services Committee where they’re looking at repealing the Dodd-Frank Act,” Williams says. “I think Dennis will do anything for a contribution.”

On health care, Williams says the Affordable Care Act was “never” a finished product. The problem was that the GOP-led Congress spent the past six years trying to repeal it instead of looking for ways to improve it. The ultimate solution is a single payer system, Williams believes.

Williams cares deeply about maintaining Social Security, the environment, and equality issues, which he says encompasses a plethora of other issues, such as LTBGT and women’s rights.

“It boils down to every American should be given equal opportunity under the law, and nobody should be discriminated against,” he says.

As a liberal on immigration, Williams says he’s not met a single person “that I come into everyday contact with who lost their job to an immigrant.” He feels much of the talk about immigration are “scare tactics,” and says while the issue needs to be addressed, building an expensive wall on the Mexican border is not the way to do that.

He calls President Donald Trump‘s recent cruise missile attack against Syria a “giant PR stunt,” attributing his reaction to reports that the administration “cleared” the action with Russia beforehand, and warning that it was going to happen.

On the Syrian question overall, he believes that the U.S. should have become more involved but adds that “it needs to be something effective.”

“We need a consistent foreign policy that promotes democracy and freedom and human rights,” he says.

Currently, Williams teaches graphic design at Keiser University (and has since 2000) had has lived in Lakeland for about 12 years, and in the district for more than two decades.

He’s one of the four Democrats so far filing to run for the CD 15 seat. The others are Cameron Magnuson, Ray Pena and Greg Pilkington.

 

Cameron Magnuson becomes fourth Democrat to challenge Dennis Ross in CD 15

Dennis Ross has not faced a serious challenge since his election to Florida’s 15th Congressional District in 2010, but several Democrats want a piece of him next year — all of whom filed to run in the district before Ross voted for the American Health Care Act last week.

Four Democrats are already running against the Polk County Republican in CD 15, while a fifth — Navy veteran Andrew Learned, is considering putting his hat into the ring.

One of those candidates who officially filed is 28-year-old insurance broker Cameron Magnuson, raised in Brandon but now lives just outside of Washington D.C. as part of his job with Geico (he’ll return to the Lakeland area by summertime).

Magnuson graduated from USF in 2009 with a degree in Business Marketing Management and earned an MBA in Finance from the Tampa-based university a year ago.

A supporter of a single-payer health care system, Magnuson labels Ross’ vote on the AHCA last week “absolutely the wrong move.”

“I think it’s a shame that we’re heading in this direction, but I am encouraged that even Republicans in Congress are acknowledging that we need to look at covering more people,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “They’re trying to make the argument — they’re absolutely wrong in what they’re saying — but they’re acknowledging now that the conversation is moving in that direction, about how do we cover everybody. Now we can start talking about the solutions that will do that, such as the Medicare for All or a single payer system.”

Last year, Ross defeated Democrat Jim Lange by 16 percentage points, 58 to 42 percent, a race where the GOP incumbent massively outspent him. While Democrat Alan Cohn raised more money in 2014, he lost by a bigger margin to Ross than Lange did.

On world affairs, Magnuson calls the Trump administration’s firing off 59 cruise missiles to attack Syria “a little reckless,” but he’s glad at least to see Trump not taking a ‘hands-off approach” to the vexing issue of what to do in that Middle Eastern nation.

“I very much believe we need to be more involved with Syria, with a humanitarian effort,” Magnuson says, acknowledging he hasn’t seen any such movement.

Magnuson says he’s spoken with local party officials in three counties that CD 15 encompasses — Polk, Hillsborough and Lake, and is scheduled to address the Lake County Democratic Executive Committee Thursday night.

Democrats Gregg Williams, Greg Pilkington and Ray Pena Jr. also filed to run for the CD 15 seat. Stay tuned to this space for upcoming profiles on each of them.

Gwen Graham wants special session to enact medical marijuana amendment

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is calling on the Florida Legislature to return to Tallahassee to do what it failed to do over the past two months – pass a bill enacting legislation for the medical marijuana amendment supported by more than 71 percent of Floridians.

“I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain,” Graham said in a statement. “Floridians spent years begging the Legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

Florida lawmakers announced Friday night that they had failed to pass a bill enacting legislation on legalizing medical marijuana.

Graham’s entry into the gubernatorial race was postponed for several months while her husband Steve Hurm dealt with being diagnosed with prostate cancer. She announce via Twitter a month ago that  he was in full remission, and announced her candidacy last week.

In her statement, the former congresswoman said that the Legislature’s failure to enact a bill to legalize medical marijuana is just the latest example of Republican lawmakers ignoring Florida voters.

“Go back to the lottery, or even more recently, Forever Florida, and all you see is the legislature playing shell games with voters. Sadly, no one should be shocked they’ve turned a blind eye to Floridians facing chronic diseases,” Graham said.

Graham also noted that for the third year in a row, the legislature is misappropriating funds for Florida Forever, a land and water conservation program supported by more than 74 percent of Florida voters in 2014.

“If my kids acted like the legislature when I told them to clean their rooms, they’d still be grounded,” Graham said. “As governor, I will force the Legislature to fulfill their responsibilities, including calling them into special session if needed, to enact medical marijuana legalization.”

Graham is running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King for the Democratic nomination.

Another potential Democratic candidate, John Morgan, announced in a series of tweets on Saturday that he also wants the Legislature to return in a special session to address the medical marijuana issue. Morgan was one of the leaders in getting Amendment Two passed last fall.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced his candidacy last week, and will officially hold an event making his announcement official this week in Bartow.

Senate President denies ‘moving goal posts’ regarding USF’s drive for pre-eminence

Florida Senate President Joe Negron is firing back at University of South Florida supporters who claim the Legislature “moved the goal posts” when they reverted language in an education conforming bill.

The bill, they say, would prevent USF from reaching the 11th of 12 pre-assigned benchmarks which would qualify them for “pre-eminence,” a status that would have qualified them for millions of dollars in state funding.

“This allegation is incorrect and entirely unsupported by the facts,” Negron says in a statement released Monday morning.

“There is one, and only one, reason USF Tampa narrowly missed pre-eminent designation this year: the university did not reach the current metric of a 70 percent six-year graduation rate,” Negron says. USF came up short on that metric, at 67 percent.

The original bill included language that a university had to achieve a four-year graduation rate of 50 percent or higher, a mark that USF has exceeded, qualifying them for ‘pre-eminence’ by reaching 11 of the 12 benchmarks previously established to be eligible for that ranking.

However, in the conforming bill — written after the budget was finalized Friday — the benchmark was amended to what it was previously: a six-year graduation rate of 70 percent or better for full-time, first-time, in-college students.

“Upon further reflection and in consultation with the Florida House, we decided it was more equitable to apply this new standard prospectively and not retroactively,” Negron says about the late hour change. “We also raised the qualifying four-year graduation rate to 60 percent. I stand by both of those decisions and would make them again.”

Over the weekend, USF officials rallied their community, making overtures to alumni, business officials and anyone else with any connection to the university to contact their members of the Legislature and call on them to “fix” the change when they returned to Tallahassee to vote on the budget Monday.

“At the last minute, the legislature is planning to make a change — taking away millions of dollars of funding for USF meeting pre-eminent University metrics,” reads the action alert sent Saturday. The alert can also be found on the USF alumni website.

“This late change excludes SOLELY the University of South Florida from qualifying for pre-eminence AFTER the Board of Governors had certified USF met the necessary criteria that had been in the proposed language since January. This change also will badly hurt our downtown Tampa medical school and heart institute as well as other USF Colleges.”

Despite the loss of pre-eminence status, USF fared well in the budget about to be signed by legislators.

Negron shot back, calling it a “banner year” for the university. USF received an increase of approximately $42 million in operation funding, he says, as well as an additional $12 million for the Morsani College of Medicine in downtown Tampa, leading

The University of Florida and Florida State University are the only two Florida universities to have achieved pre-eminent status.

Mike Griffin, the greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce president and a USF alumnus, has been explicitly claiming officials from one of those two universities successfully lobbied legislators to change the language in the bill, shutting out USF.

Charlie Crist: ‘Horrible’ GOP health care bill ‘like they don’t care about people’

Three days after House Republicans passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a group of St. Petersburg residents, joined by Congressman Charlie Crist, is organizing some voter pushback against  the “horrible bill.”

Approximately 70 citizens met up with the St. Petersburg Democrat in North Straub Park Sunday afternoon to announce that they intend to “stand up and fight back” against the bill, viewed by many as the biggest legislative victory in the young Trump presidency.

“It was a horrible bill then — this one is even worse,” said Crist, referring to the GOP’s first legislative attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare that did not get a vote in March.

The House narrowly voted Thursday to support a reconfigured version of the American Health Care Act, 217-213.

“I can’t imagine that anyone would pass it, that anyone would write it, that anyone would support it let alone vote for the darn thing,” Crist said in disgust. “It’s awful. And it’s like they don’t care about people, and I don’t think they do,” he said of congressional Republicans.

Going back to his first electoral victory in the Florida state Senate in 1992, Crist said the AHCA (which he voted against) was the “worst piece of legislation I’ve seen in all those years. The worst!”

Crist specifically called out three provisions of the legislation which upset him. One is that the bill completely defunds Planned Parenthood in its first year of implementation.

Referring to how the family planning organization does more than just perform abortions, Crist said: “the ignorance about that is stunning.”

Crist also decried the parts of the bill that permits insurance companies to charge as much as five times a person between the ages of 50-64, compared to costs to a healthy 20-something. The bill proposes more than $880 billion proposed in Medicaid cuts.

On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, House Speaker Paul Ryan defended those proposed cuts, saying the Medicaid system isn’t working (an argument echoed by state GOP lawmakers one was in defense of their opposition to Medicaid expansion in Florida).

“Doctors aren’t taking Medicaid, hospitals can’t survive with Medicaid alone. So by giving the states the ability to customize their Medicaid population their program to work for them,” Ryan said.

As an “eternal optimist,” Crist remains hopeful that the GOP Senate can substantially improve the bill. Republican Senators like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Lamar Alexander, are among those speaking out about the bill, he noted.

Crist also asked the crowd to contact Sen. Marco Rubio, prompting comments from the partisan crowd that they’ve tried, but couldn’t leave a message.

Others spoke to the crowd in defense of the ACA. Erica Behr, who said that when her husband’s kidney began to fail two years ago, she gave him one of hers. That is an act that the Republicans will punish her for, Behr said.

“This is a pre-existing condition for me,” she explained, adding that after kidney surgery, she developed autoimmune problems. “I would be on disability without my health care,” she said, “and that’s what the Republicans are trying to do if the ACA is repealed.”

“When you, your family or friends develop an illness, it becomes a pre-existing condition if your health care policy changes. People shouldn’t be punished financially for getting sick,” said Dr. Juan Dumois, chairman of the division or infectious disease at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

Sunday’s rally was one of more than 75 demonstrations scheduled to take place this weekend in opposition to the passage of the AHCA. Women’s March Pinellas and Awake Pinellas led the demonstration in St. Pete.

Outraged by health care vote, Pam Keith considers facing Brian Mast in CD 18 next year

Pam Keith has formed an exploratory committee to consider facing Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th Congressional District next year.

Keith, who received over 15 percent of the vote in last summer’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, made the announcement at the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee meeting Thursday night, just hours after Mast voted with the majority of his fellow Republicans for the American Health Care Act.

“The response has been phenomenal,” Keith said Friday to FloridaPolitics.com. “People love that I am a veteran and feel that this helps to neutralize a lot of what Brian emphasized in his campaign.”

Taking 15.4 percent of the Democratic vote for Senate last year, Keith nearly eclipsed Alan Grayson — a well-known and better-funded candidate — who received only 17.7 percent.

Mast’s predecessor, former Congressman Patrick Murphy, won the Democratic nomination in August before losing to Marco Rubio in the general election.

Keith wanted to wait longer before making the announcement, but said Mast’s vote in support of the AHCA “really pushed me to get out there and test the waters.”

A former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy, Keith made her first run for public office with a 2016 Senate bid.

After Mast voted Thursday for the AHCA, the Palm City Republican immediately came under fire from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Make no mistake about it: Mast must face the music, look his constituents in the eye, and answer for the mess they created,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan, a congressman from New Mexico. “There is no question that this bill will cause incredible pain for hardworking Americans, particularly those fighting to make ends meet, and this vote will haunt Mast through Election Day.”

Speaking on the House floor, Mast said Thursday that he has a pre-existing condition — he lost his legs in a bomb attack while serving the U.S. Army in Afghanistan — adding he was the “staunchest advocate for people out there that have pre-existing conditions.”

Keith believes her politics line up “very well” in the swing district, where “people know how much I am willing to work hard on the ground for each vote.”

It’s the end of the road for the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission

Legislation that would effectively kill the controversial Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission (HB 647) passed in the Florida House on Thursday.

The bill, sponsored by Tampa Bay Republican Jamie Grant, was first introduced as a local bill at the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation meeting last December.

Although the PTC has reaped a slew of negative news stories over the past three years in its attempts to regulate ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft in Hillsborough County, widespread antipathy to the organization goes back years, if not decades.

Attempts to end the agency have been discussed by Hillsborough County Republicans stretching back to 2010, when then-Senator Ronda Storms threatened to do so. Grant first talked about ending the agency’s life in the summer of 2013.

Among the previous lowlights that had saddled the PTC came in 2010 when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.

There was also the case of former County Commissioner Kevin White, who was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators to get permits in his role as PTC chair. White ended up serving three years at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The PTC caught the attention of lawmakers like Grant and Jeff Brandes after the PTC went after Uber when it introduced its Uber Black limo service during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. The PTC shut that effort down quickly.

Those lawmakers became incredibly irritated with the PTC and its (now former) chairman Victor Crist over the past few years, as Uber and Lyft refused to comply with PTC regulations. That led to PTC agents citing those drivers, leading to court actions and more than two years of fighting before an agreement bringing both companies into compliance occurred last month.

The most recent full-time PTC executive director, Kyle Cockream, resigned at the end of last year.

In February, the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement confirmed that they were conducting an inquiry into missing texts sent from Cockream’s personal phone and seven other PTC phones, going back to last October. Text messages are considered public records, and deliberately deleting them is a misdemeanor crime under state law.

The PTC was created by the state legislature in 1976 to regulate taxis, limousines, vans and basic life-support ambulances in Hillsborough County. No other such entity exists in the state of Florida.

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